A question of sport with Norwood’s Eugene and Kevin

25 June 2019

Having just celebrated Learning Disability Week (17–23 June), which focused this year on sports and social inclusion, we wanted to share with you some of the ways we support people in our homes – whatever their ability – to take part in sporting activities within their community all year round.

Eugene Valdez, Home Manager at Carlton Avenue, and Kevin Gyamera, Norwood’s Wellbeing and Physical Activity Practitioner, reveal the variety of activities that Norwood residents are involved in and the positive benefits they bring.

Eugene Valdez, Home Manager at Carlton Avenue with resident Mitzi

What sports do Carlton residents do each week?
Eugene: On Tuesdays, they go to ten-pin bowling. Laurie (61) is always our champion. On Thursdays, we have a multi-sports session, which Kevin leads. The residents do various sports activities during the session, for example, boccia, which is ball-throwing. They also use resistance bands. Anything that’s interactive, the residents really love.

Kevin: I bring whatever equipment I feel will benefit the session. In terms of planning the session, there’s always a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning is always a warm-up to get them going. The middle is more exercise-based stuff. And the ending is games.

Why is taking part in sport so important for the residents?
Kevin: I think exercise is important for everyone – to keep you alive, to keep you fit, to maintain your wellbeing. I think it’s especially important for people with learning disabilities because they can be more prone to injuries. Their bones may be more brittle so it’s important that they have some kind of movement to keep them strong.

Eugene: Apart from sport keeping them physically active, it also really engages them. Exercise has always been part of our residents’ interests, so we really promote this and try to be creative in getting them to do different activities. For example, one lady here just likes to watch and hold things. So we might ask her to hold a ball and then encourage her to throw it into a basket. We just want to make it really fun for her.

And how do you use sports to help people engage more in the community?
Eugene: On a nice sunny day, we’ll use the park, which is a minute away from us. Our residents will go for walks or use the outdoor gym facility. They also play football and basketball and there’s a tennis court that they can use. A gym session has just started at the leisure centre in Stanmore, which also has a hydrotherapy pool and Zumba classes. I work out which residents will be interested in which activities are on offer in the community, but I also have to consider the support they need, and the distance and cost in getting them there. If a person has higher needs, they may require two people to support them, so we really need to plan. We don’t have a minibus at the moment so the residents use taxis, which can be expensive.

Kevin: We’re going to start introducing gym and taking residents from Carlton Avenue and our other London homes over to the learning disability gym at Aspire in Stanmore. The people we support will get an induction with someone from the gym on how to use the equipment and I’ll be there to oversee them. I have a fitness background so I’ll be able to help them out. There’s an outdoor gym in the local park (Kenton Recreational Ground) that I’d like to take them to more often. And I’d like to organise an athletics games day there in the summer. That would be fun.

What do the residents think of the sporting activities they do?
Eugene: Laurie always looks forward to every Thursday and lets me know how Kevin will be coming here that day. Each week, he’ll tell me how he’s going to be ready by 10.30 and will list what he’s going to do and the time he’s going to do it, from waking up at 6.30am until he attends the session. But all the residents seem to enjoy the activities because they are fun, which is the most important thing. When they’re having fun, we’re promoting their wellbeing and their health. So it’s doing them a lot of good.

Kevin: For the residents, just seeing a new face every week is enough to get them active.
My sessions are fun, exciting and involve a lot of games – and this seems to make them happy.